The Art Of Living Rent Free
Life could be such fun if only the monthly rent or mortgage payment didn't get in the way. Explore five artful (and possible) ways of escaping the bill and living the dream.
Cheerful senior couple jump on the bed

Fed up with paying rent? Tired of the same-old-same-old walk around the block?

If you’ve got a hankering for adventure, a spirit of exploration and a desire to not let the grass grow under your feet…read on. You may find just the inspiration you’ve been looking for to try a different way of finding shelter.

Last week, I talked with a friend of mine who is living in Marin, county. That’s one of the most expensive areas of the United States. Here’s what Jack* told me:

“You might not believe it, but I haven’t paid rent for the last 3 years. I’ve been living aboard boats and am taking care of a little upkeep. Between you and me, I’ve mostly been enjoying going out on a kayak or watching herons fly over the water.”

Jack has found what many of us dream of: a way to live rent free, in one of the most beautiful places on earth.

Well, before I get ahead of myself, let me tell you something my father in law told me.

“There’s no such thing as a free lunch.”

This is true when it comes to the term ‘rent free.’ It never is actually free. You’ll be doing something to pay for your home. It might be cleaning, clearing, sweeping or dusting. It may be looking after a dog, cat or canary. It might be watering plants or picking up the mail.

In addition, there are some reasonable expectations to set and guidelines to follow. Owners may want to return unexpectedly. Chaotic circumstances such as natural disasters may create changes in plans. The key is to be able to talk about what is expected, and what to do in case of unexpected events.

Now, here are several ideas that may help you to think differently about that big ticket that’s eating into your funds: rent.

Since we started with Jack’s story, let’s start with off-land first.

01. Boat Sitting

It’s really just like it sounds. Living aboard boats is a great way to find a free rent option. If you are feeling adventurous and want to give it a go—head to the part of town with a harbor.

Many boat owners only use their boats a few times a year or less. They are often delighted to have a responsible senior or senior couple to watch their property, help with upkeep and protect against vandalism.

Additionally, you can do a lot of the research onsite. Many harbors and ports have a local marine shop, snack shop or bar that is the local gathering spot. If you head there, you’ll often find that the old-fashioned bulletin board is still a functioning method of finding a boat-sitting offer. Or put up an ad—on the board or in the local paper.

02. House Sitting

Homeowners feel safer when someone is taking care of their property while they are away on vacation, on work travel or spending time in another home. House sitting gigs can run any length of time—from weeks to months to a full year.

Some house sits may include domestic tasks such as picking up mail, watering plants. You may find more opportunities when house sitting is combined with caring for pets. If you’re an animal lover, you are in for a treat.

If you’re ready to check this out, start investigating opportunities online. House carers connects house owners with senior house sitters. It’s good to know: many homeowners feel more confident trusting their home to seniors.

Perhaps that next house sitter could be you!

03. Live-In Care

Many families are looking for help around the house. Live in opportunities may include a place to live such as a room, a guest wing or separate quarters.

In these situations, it’s important to clearly agree on what is expected in terms of hours and care. Cooking, cleaning, grounds upkeep, animal care may be part of the package.

In some situations, you may be interacting with children and perhaps acting in the role of a nanny. In other homes, you may be looking after one or more older members of the family.

For the host family, having you in their home is like having engaged grandparents. For you, this may be the opportunity to build close connections, relate across generations, plus have free rent.

You may find some options on Craigslist.org.

04. Farm Stays

Many farms require help and offer the opportunity to experience the farm lifestyle hands on.

This kind of work may not be full time, but can require things like cleaning up stalls, milking goats or cows, unloading hay, or helping with crops such as fruits and vegetables. Besides being fun, it is likely to keep you active, strong and healthy.

World Wide Opportunitiies on organic Farms (WWOOF) is a site that lists destinations for rent-free living opportunities around the world. This kind of work appeals to people of all ages, so you are likely to make friends across generations.

05. Lodge Keepers

Some lodges are in remote locations — such as in the mountains or on a secluded bay. This offers a unique opportunity to be close to nature, watch wildlife and live life at a slower pace.

However, your stay is likely to require work. Part of the deal may be interacting with guests, hosting events, cleaning rooms and doing groundwork. Understanding the expectations in advance will help you determine if this is the best choice for you.

Assistance Club Summary

It’s possible to live without paying cash for rent. If you’re feeling up for the adventure, agile and ready to explore—check out opportunities that could work for you. It could be life changing!